Friday, July 4, 2014

When Parents Enable Children's Mental Disorders & Weaknesses

Parenting: Yikes, no instruction manual!

Any blog writer has to guess as to who might be out there reading, and what their interests and concerns might be. When limited time is an issue, as it is for me, often the blog writer has to stick to writing what they know, and what their life reveals day by day. Increasingly, I'm having to learn about mental disorders, so you are seeing more of that content. Some of you are skipping it, while others are grateful because maybe you're just beginning to suspect issues with your own children.

One thing I'm learning is that diagnosing mental disorders early gives children and families the opportunity to conquer them before they become ugly monsters. These issues don't have to devastating. Keep in mind that parents can make things worse by unknowingly aiding the disorders and reinforcing dysfunctional patterns that will be hard to break later.

You may recall me providing the testimony of an OCD sufferer who was an actor/producer who'd become so impaired he couldn't go anywhere without his parents, even past age 30. His parents participated in his OCD rituals. I don't even have to read more background to know that. His parents made their son completely dependent on them.

Parents make OCD worse, and any anxiety disorder worse, by feeding it--giving reassurances to lessen a child's immediate anxiety. Providing these constant reassurances and lessening a child's anxiety makes the whole family breath easier, but to conquer these disorders we can't give in to the tyranny of the present. That's the easy way out, just as giving the alcoholic another drink is taking the easy way out.

Ultimately, once proper therapy is explained to children and they are trained in it, they have to make the decision to get better. The other choice is to remain a victim of the disorder. We can't force our children to do their therapies; it's an act of their will, requiring their courage.

We can offer them our prayers, the best information and training, and we can be an escort to the Throne of Grace. But we can't make them do any of it on their own, and that's what it takes to get well. If they choose to be a victim of the disorder, we can't cover for them or pick up the slack. That only makes it easier for them to continue on the same cowardly road. We can't pity them or feel responsible for them. We can't say "this isn't their fault". Actually, if they won't do what it takes to get well, it is their fault.

There are times my seven-year-old daughter refuses to do anything but stay in bed because of cloudy weather and fear of thunder, and ultimately, fear of lightning striking the house. I have to walk away during these times, knowing that I've done everything I can for her.

She still has to finish her school work. She still has to do her share of the chores. I can't force food down her throat, and I won't carry her away from her bed, but I can enforce consequences for when she chooses to let her fears stop her from fulfilling her responsibilities.

I'm sensitive to her when it's actually thundering or lightning, but when that happens it's just five minutes at a time; more often the sky might look menacing but nothing happens. This seems harsh, I know, but there are only so many things I can do before she becomes a manipulator and uses her anxiety for her advantage. Kids are like that; they were born sinners and we can expect them to sin pretty often.

Even the child with a simple case of ADHD without any comorbid conditions, can be enabled by a parent if he is not required to wake up on his own with an alarm clock. Don't continually go in there and try to get a child out of bed. The alarm clock is all that's required. Let the child take the natural consequences of failing to get out of bed on time. Each time you cover for a child's negligence, you keep him a child, dependent on you.

Similarly, ADHD children need schedules. Once you train them in the use of schedules, they should be writing their own (depending on age) and sticking to them. Give consequences when they don't, but don't nag throughout the day about where they are on the schedule. Have one accountability time before lunch and one after, not several throughout the day.

It takes courage for us to avoid enabling them, and it takes courage for them to take charge of their disorder.

So in these issues, as in everything else, parenting is a prayer. 

Mental disorders can be devastating, but they don't have to be.

Prayer Time:

Dear Lord, we thank you for your love, for your faithfulness, for your wisdom. We ask for courage. We ask that Your glory will shine through the courage you provide to us. We ask that our children will give this over to you, and give up any anger, resentment, self-pity, and any special status they're harboring, and choose to fight for good health, giving you all the glory for their victory. 

In Jesus's Name I pray, Amen.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen! It is a fine line to draw but love includes kindness and understanding tempered with firmness. Sounds to me like you're doing a brilliant job. I know how hard it is!